Sun-Thurs 18-1; Fri 12-18; Sat 16-1
If I would have only one night to eat in Tel Aviv, I would without a doubt choose to eat at David VeYossef. Every time I have someone special visit Tel Aviv, I take them to this hidden culinary nook. Why? Because the two man culinary act at David VeYossef prepare heavenly food in a way you’ve never had it. The two owners and chefs, David and Yossef, do everything from the buying of ingredients, prepping the food, cooking and finally adding the garnishes and seasoning. There are no line cooks, no prep staff, and no expeditors. Everything on the menu is simple, innovative, fresh , and cooked from scratch.
Yossef goes to the market daily to buy vegetables and David buys fresh fish twice a week. A set menu and specials which change daily are based on fish and vegetables bought that day. Yossef explains, “This restaurant is our playground.” My response, “if it’s your playground, then it’s my kingdom.” While eating at David VeYossef I am a carefree child on the swing with the wind blowing in my hair feeling both exhilarated and peaceful, completely satisfied. In this small, intimate restaurant which can easily be mistaken as a swanky pickup bar, you are both the diner and spectator. You are invited to sit around the bar and watch David and Yossef create your dish, experience the sounds, sights and tastes in one moment. David and Yossef break down the wall built between patron and chef and literally invite you to experience the entire process. The dining experience is both a show for your eyes and a gift to your appetite.
My love affair with the food at David VeYossef began the moment I dined there and I counted the days, hours even minutes until we would be reunited. As each day got closer, my smile got bigger. For these two chefs, presentation is key. This was proven by the fact that during my interview a friend of the two chefs brought hummus in a takeaway container, the men’s mid-day snack. Yossef proceeded to take the hummus out of the plastic container, and put it on a plate so meticulously and artistically that I said to him, “appearances matter,” and he responded by saying, “you eat with your eyes before you eat with your mouth.” It’s no wonder that then that my eyes follow each dish as the server brings them to the table, each a unique work of art.
At David VeYossef there are no gimmicks, no games, and no fuss – the food is simple, genuine, cooked with passion and comes straight from the kitchen to the table seducing the eyes and flavorfully exploding in the mouth. Each plate is small enough that you and your dining companions can blissfully share a number of the dishes. I have been to David veYossef numerous times and it is impossible for me to choose a favorite dish. The warm house bread paired with an aioli and harissa dip is a good way to start off the culinary journey. Most dishes are accompanied with a sauce that will make you want to lick your plate clean, so having some bread around is essential. The seafood dishes are their obvious strengths such as the lightly salted tuna tartar which is combined with an avocado mousse and drizzled lightly with sesame oil, a match made in heaven. The Mediterranean sea scallops, with darkened mozzarella, artichokes and tomatoes were so deliciously seared that we ordered them again. I was initially taken aback by the sound of the calamari with lentils, but the dish, which also came with eggplant and yogurt,united in perfect harmony. The calamari was tenderly seasoned with sumac, perfectly balanced with the heavy components of the lightly seasoned lentil paste. This dish was a unanimous favorite.
On my recent visits to the restaurant I was lucky enough to taste the goose liver which was featured on the special menu. The pan fried dish came with a coconut mousse and date and honey sauce that had me dreaming about it for days.
Both men have made me question how I spent my entire life without chestnuts. Two delectable dishes, the gnocchi and risotto, feature my new favorite ingredient. Kassandra highly recommends the risotto, it’s been the only place to find authentic risotto outside of Italy. The unusual mix of ingredients combined with the creamy, rich flavor of the risotto is a pleasure journey to tasty town. Mushrooms, truffles, artichoke hearts and chestnuts are features in this delectable dish, with the option to include seafood. The gnocchi which features similar ingredients, though not on the set menu, should certainly be added to it.
A dream for these two men is quickly coming true since they opened the restaurant six months ago. Yossef explains, “I knew that I wanted to cook since I was nine years old.” Coming from a Moroccan and Iraqi background, he obsessively observed his mother and grandmothers cook. There was never a doubt or question that he would be a chef. He and David met while working at some of the finest restaurants in Israel, under some of the most talented chefs. Their dream was to open up their own restaurant where they had both the creative freedom and the quality control. Every element is to their standards and the bar is set very high. The culinary duo attributes their success to the ying and yang balance. Yossi (short for Yossef) is extraverted, playful and intense while Dudi (short for David) is calm, collected and meticulous. As Yossi slices the fresh, fleshy meat for the carpaccio, Dudi prepares the handmade gnocchi. The balance and harmony in their partnership is reflected in every dish where citrus notes are counterbalance by sweet and the elements of the sea are combined with earthy tones.
It almost cannot be described how the meals are plated so spectacularly, each a masterpiece in its own right. Every plate is painted with a richly colored sauce, rivaled by a unique delicious taste. David veYossef is a place where you won’t let the waitress remove your plate until it is absolutely spotless. At the end you’ll find yourself a child again, dreaming of the day that you visit the culinary playground of these two talented and charming chefs.
**Recommended Dishes: Calamari and lentils, risotto, anything from the Daily Specials